Planting the seed of innovation

“Yet undergraduate education changes remarkably little over time. My predecessor … famously compared the difficulty of reforming a curriculum with the difficulty of moving a cemetery”Lawrence H. Summers, former president of Harvard University.

Following the Emerging Leaders Summit last term I’ve been talking to a few people lately about what the principal at school, Jeff, calls “Inviting Innovation”. How do we encourage innovation then infect others with innovative ideas?

At the Summit, I was introduced to a different way in which to use the Innovation Curve. What was proposed was that the ‘Early Adopters’ will follow the ‘Innovator’ but the Innovators are too divergent from the majority of the population, so most people are likely to follow the Early Adopters, rather than the Innovators. The idea being that we need to nurture the Early Adopters and allow them to model, teach and share the innovations with the remainder of the people on the Curve.

I then got chatting about this with my Dad who proposed that perhaps the way for innovations to disperse in the education sector was for innovators to plant the seed within and, more importantly, beyond their school. Then Early Adopters in these schools could allow the seed to grow and spread until the idea returned to the school from which it came. This way the original innovator is not seen as a “Principal’s Pet”, the idea is validated by people beyond their insular school environment and people are more likely to take up the innovation. I wonder….

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